A Globe is Just an Asterisk and Every Home Should Have an Asterisk



Before a globe is pressed into a sphere,
the shape of the paper is an asterisk.

This planet is holding our place in line:
look out for metallic chips of meteor

hurtling through the universe. On my drive
to work, I saw my neighbor’s lawn boiling

over with birds. Like the yard was a giant lasagna
and the birds were the perfectly bubbled cheese,

not yet crisped and brown. And I was hungry
to keep driving, driving all the way down

to central Florida, to my parents’ house
and into their garage, and up the pull-down stairs

in their attic to find my old globe from 1983.
I used to sit in the living room with Kenny Rogers

playing on mom’s record player. I spun and spun
that globe and traced my fingers along

the nubby Himalayas, the Andes – measured
with the span of my thumb and forefinger

and the bar scale that showed how many miles
per inch. I tried to pinch the widest part

of the Pacific Ocean, the distance between me
and India, me and the Philippines. The space

between the shorelines was too wide. My hand
was always empty when it came to land, to knowing

where is home. I dip my hands in the sea. I net
nothing. Only seaweed, a single hapless smelt.




author Aimee Nezhukumatathil in a white top smiling at the cameraAimee Nezhukumatathil (neh-ZOO / KOO-mah / tah-TILL) is the author of the New York Times best selling illustrated collection of nature essays and Kirkus Prize finalist, WORLD OF WONDERS: IN PRAISE OF FIREFLIES, WHALE SHARKS, & OTHER ASTONISHMENTS (2020, Milkweed Editions), which was chosen as Barnes and Noble’s Book of the Year. She has four previous poetry collections: OCEANIC (Copper Canyon Press, 2018), LUCKY FISH (2011), AT THE DRIVE-IN VOLCANO (2007), and MIRACLE FRUIT (2003), the last three from Tupelo Press.  Her most recent chapbook is LACE & PYRITE, a collaboration of garden poems with the poet Ross Gay. Her writing appears twice in the Best American Poetry Series, The New York Times Magazine, ESPNPloughshares, American Poetry Review, and Tin House.

Honors include a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pushcart Prize, a Mississippi Arts Council grant, and being named a Guggenheim Fellow in poetry. She is professor of English and Creative Writing in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program.


This poem was originally published in TLR’s Indian Poetry Issue.